How do I write a CV?

We’re often asked, “how do I write a CV?” when people register with us. We know that when you haven’t written a CV before, the prospect can seem a little daunting. There’s lots of templates and advice available online. However, the sheer amount can sometimes be off-putting – which one should you choose and whose advice should you listen to?

There is no right or wrong answer to that. Your CV is your first introduction to an employer, so it needs to give them an idea of what value you can bring to the company, and ideally a little flavour of your personality. We’ve seen quite a few CVs in our time (to state the obvious), so we thought we’d offer our take on the subject.

What is a CV and why does it matter?

A Curriculum Vitae (or CV as we commonly say) is a short written document of your work history, qualifications, and education. Your CV is used by employers to screen job applicants and assess whether they might be right for the job. The information you put in your CV will help employers to shortlist people for interview and will often be referred to by your interviewer throughout your interview.

What should I include in my CV?

While there is a lot of variation in structure and presentation, there are some things that are expected within a CV.

  • Your personal details (name and how to contact you) – your gender and date of birth is not necessary here.
  • Work experience (with the most recent experience first) – Try and give a brief description of what you do in the job, any responsibilities you have and any training you did.
  • Education and qualifications (most recent first)
  • References (on request)

There are some other sections that you can add when writing your CV to make you stand out.

  • Personal profile or statement – this is a few lines about who you are and what you are looking for or can offer a company. This section can help grab the reader’s attention and give them context to your work history. Focus on your key skills and give the employer a reason to shortlist you. To really impress, adapt this section to the job you’re applying for.
  • Hobbies and interests – add these only if you think they might be relevant to the job or company culture or interesting to the employer. Socialising isn’t a hobby!

CV checklist

  • Keep it brief and relevant
  • Check spelling and grammar – use Editor on Word or similar
  • Choose a professional font – make sure it’s easy to read
  • Be logical in your layout and use headings and bullet points.

Bronya’s top tips

Remember this is a professional document.

  • Don’t use funny or potentially off-putting email addresses – the safest option is an email address with just your name (and numbers if needed). You can easily create a free email address from Google, Outlook, or others.
  • Consider your social presence online – don’t use a profile photo that might put an employer off and check your privacy settings.
  • Be honest – don’t get caught out in interview with something that isn’t real on your CV. If you’re open and honest you are more likely to find a job that’s right for you.
  • If you’re on LinkedIn, make sure your work history matches your CV.
  • Keep it short and sweet – 2 pages is ideal. If you’re running out of space, give priority to your newest experience and qualifications.
  • Tackle any gaps in your work history head on and supply brief reasons for them, expanding in a cover letter if it is necessary. Put a positive spin on any gaps, drawing attention to any useful skills or experience.
  • Think about the language you are using – this isn’t the same as writing a social profile aimed at your friends. Remember you are writing to a hiring manager and stick to professional language.
  • If you’re just entering the world of work, don’t worry. Enthusiasm and a willingness to learn will go a long way and you can make the most of your extracurricular activities and hobbies to show transferable skills. Show that you know what you’re aiming at and how you plan to contribute to the company.
  • Register with a recruitment agency – when we meet with you, we will find everything we need to increase your chances with an employer, so your CV won’t be your only tool in your job search toolbox.

Find a CV template that you like online and get writing – almost all employers, recruitment agencies, and job sites will ask you for one.

How Octopus can help.

If you would like support writing your CV for the first time, we can help you. Once you’re registered with us, we can set up a CV writing appointment with Anna or Katherine and they will guide you through the process and even print copies for you. Call us on 01747 825568 to make a CV appointment.

If you’ve never registered with an agency before, you can read our blog How to register with a recruitment agency or give us a call on 01747 825568.

Bronya Tanner

About the author

I look after the office here at Octopus and will usually be the first person you speak to. I keep everyone organised and ready for the day ahead and love that we all work as a team to help find the right job matches.

At home I am a keen baker and have my own Insta food blog! I’ve already made the odd Showstopper for our Octopus events and my Signature bake would have to be a celebration cake.